Parades have been a mainstay in Disney World since it opened in 1971. The first parades were very simple with characters walking through the streets of Magic Kingdom.
The first such parade was The Character Parade, which debuted on October 1st, 1971. There were no floats and no real fanfare- just characters, some musicians, and antique cars. Mickey led a uniformed marching band, and Minnie rode along with the Dapper Dans. Some characters included Dumbo, Thumper, Flower, Baloo, King Louie, and the Big Bad Wolf. When a patriotic float was added in 1972 promoting “Pooh for President,” Tigger and Eeyore followed with a fife and drum corp. This parade took place twice daily at 12:30 and 5:30 PM.
A string of other parades followed for the next decade or so. The Cavalcade of Characters ran during the ’70s with a brief interruption by America on Parade in 1975-1976. The parades during this time tended to celebrate important moments in Disney history like Mickey’s 50th Birthday Parade (1978), The Tencennial Parade marking the tenth anniversary of Walt Disney World (October 1, 1981 to September 30th, 1982), and Donald Duck’s 50th Birthday Parade (1984).
These predecessors led to what became known as “The 3:00 Parade.” As parades became more elaborate, they began to only run once per day. With the exception of very busy weeks, the parades began around 3:00 pm. Although all of the parades had names, it was easier to refer to them as such.
The 3:00 time has even become part of training and culture. Disney teaches Cast Members to look beyond the questions that guests ask, to understand what they really need. When a guest asks (the apparently obvious question of) “What time is the 3:00 parade,” what they really mean is “What time will the parade pass by this location.”
Today, let’s take a look back at the “3:00 parades” throughout history!
1. Mickey’s Street Party
Mickey’s Street Party, which debuted in January 1985, was the first official “3:00 Parade” since the parades before this one didn’t start at 3pm. The street party had a fun upbeat vibe with classic 80’s neon colors, glittery ornaments, and floats. There was also a catchy disco-ish soundtrack.
The party started on Main Street USA and wound through the park with a cast of 40 Disney characters including Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear, Alice, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and Jungle Book friends. Cinderella had her own float surrounded by waltzing couples and her mice friends. Another float carried Huey, Dewey, and Louie (Donald’s nephews), and Goofy. Winnie the Pooh and friends also had their own float.
The floats were accompanied by parade performers twirling colorful ribbons and flags all while dancing along.
This parade ran for about a year.
2. 15 Years of Magic
The second official 3:00 Parade was called 15 years of Magic. It started on October 1st, 1986 as part of the 15th anniversary celebration of Disney World. This parade featured a lot of the same characters, but there were new floats! This was also the first time that a guest was chosen to be the Grand Marshall of the day. The lucky guest not only got to lead the parade down Main Street, but he or she also won a Chevrolet Cavalier convertible, which was a daily give away as part of the 15th Anniversary Celebration. (Read more about The Disney-Chevy partnership here).
Right after the Grand Marshall, Chip and Dale follow on a rock n roll themed float with Pluto, Big Bad Wolf, Tigger, and Br’er Bear as the backup band. Donald Duck rode aboard the party float with streamers and gift boxes, and the Country Bears (from the Country Bear Jamboree) baked a cake on a float behind him. The finale float was a crystal version of Cinderella Castle with Goofy at the top. The characters were joined by roller skaters along the route!
The theme of the parade was “We’re having a Party” with a theme song by the same name. This parade ran through the 15th year until September 1987.
3. All America Parade
Walt was a very patriotic person, and Walt Disney World has always been patriotic as well. One of the most patriotic parades at Magic Kingdom was the All America Parade, which ran from 1987 to 1988 to commemorate the bicentennial of the US Constitution.
The parade started with a band, and they were followed by a huge replica of the document. On this float, Mickey and Minnie Mouse were dressed in their revolutionary garb with a Liberty Bell. They were the only characters at the beginning of the parade. What follows are singers, dancers, and performers accompanying the flags of the original 13 colonies and passing out flags.
Next come the characters! Captain Hook and Smee are riding a boat, dancing Scarecrows jump off of a Wizard of Oz-themed float, the Country Bears ride atop a float, Donald and Daisy cruise on a riverboat with instrumentalists and dancers, and a clumsy gold miner climbs all over his float. Cowboy Goofy rides a horse that does tricks, Chip and Dale adorn a Wild West float, and dancing lumberjacks promote preventing forest fires followed by Song of the South’s Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox. All the while, the Spirit of America song plays in the background.
Eventually, the Surfin’ USA song by the Beach Boys takes over, and stunt riders show of their skills on skateboards, bikes, and skates. Pooh and Eeyore accompany this unit as Tigger rides on the surfing float.
The finale song, “This Land is Your Land”, plays and the Castle Float appears. Mary Poppins and her penguin, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Alice, Dumbo, Cinderella and Prince Charming, and others walk with or ride on this float.
The parade ends with cast members carrying flags from all over the world representing countries that helped make America the melting pot that we are. These countries are also featured in Epcot‘s World Showcase.
The All America Parade was recycled in 1988 and renamed Mickey’s All American Birthday Parade. The new parade used a lot of the same floats and costumes but added a couple new ones plus a new theme song. The new parade starts with bakers, one of which is carrying a birthday cake, and the rest of the characters, dancers, and singers, celebrate Mickey’s birthday. This parade ran for a year until 1989.
4. Disney Character Hit Parade
The Disney Character Hit Parade opened on October 1st, 1989. It was also known as the Zip Parade. This was the largest Magic Kingdom parade to date with over 100 performers depicting 14 moments from beloved Disney films.
It started with the Grand Marshall family of the day followed by a marching band. What follows is a throwback to the original character parades. Roger Rabbit, Chip and Dale, King Louie’s monkeys, Baloo, Mowgli, Winnie the Pooh and friends, The Country Bears, Davy Crocket, Captain Hook, Mr. Smee, and Tick Tock Crocodile were all among the characters aboard floats. Snow White and her prince rode a waterwheel float, and Cinderella’s coach was pulled by white horses. Mary Poppins floated above the rooftops of London, and Stromboli and his puppet wagon plus Pinocchio and can-can dancers followed behind. The last float carried Minnie and Mickey Mouse as The Mickey Mouse Club song played. Also on board were gummi bears, The Three Little Pigs, The Big Bad Wolf, The Rescuers, Robin Hood, and more.
The parade also had a tornado slide float with skateboarders, but there weren’t a lot of other dancers. The characters were the main focus!
5. 20th Anniversary Surprise Celebration Parade
After the throwback character parade, Disney World was ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary. On September 22nd, 1991, the 20th Anniversary Surprise Celebration Parade kicked off. It was based on Disneyland’s The Party Gras parade and used all of the same balloons except Disney World used their own Mickey and Donald balloons. The theme was carnivals around the world including Mardi Gras, Carnival De Rio, and the Venetian Carnivals.
A new grand marshal family was selected daily, and Roger Rabbit joined them on the first float. Dancing women carried Minnie Mouse down Main Street USA in her fruit suit, and Donald Duck wore traditional carnival garb while playing a drum. Chip and Dale followed on palm trees. Pluto and the Country Bears played tropical music and maracas, and Goofy was in a jester music box with acrobats around. The last float carried King Mickey with Snow White and Cinderella. This is quite symbolic since these three characters were some of Walt’s originals.
Late in 1992, the parade was renamed the Surprise Celebration Parade since the 20th anniversary had ended, and this parade marched on through 1994.
6. Mickey Mania Parade
The Mickey Mania Parade replaced the anniversary celebration with a grand opening on June 1st, 1994 with just as many performers as the Character Parade. This parade celebrated everything Mickey and performers on each float were dressed to represent a recognizable part of Mickey like his shoes, his gloves, or his shorts.
There was a lot going on in this parade. Skateboarders, dirt bike riders, roller bladers, stilt walkers, and people on inflatable hop balls all made it a lot of fun. Add to that a female rapper introducing the parade by saying, “Yo there! Listen up you rad dudes…” and you’ve got a recipe for a classic ’90s vibe. The theme song was “Rock the House with the Mouse” and The Mickey Mouse Club theme song was also played.
The first float had a tornado slide with the parade logo as Pluto and Roger Rabbit rode along. In later versions of the parade, Roger Rabbit was replaced with Goofy’s son Max, who starred in the hit Goofy Movie around the same time.
Besides the Mickey-themed floats, there was a gumball machine filled with Mickey heads, Peter Pan, Alice, The Mad Hatter, Pinocchio, Geppetto, and Wendy rode tricycles, Pooh was surrounded by Mickey plush, Tigger and the seven dwarfs carried Mickey puppets on their hands, and Minnie performed with dancing musicians. Since it was the early ’90s and people were still intrigued by up and coming technology, Mickey-shaped TVs and TV cameras were featured. There was also a giant moving Mickey clock with Chip and Dale inside and Cogsworth, Tick Tock Crocodile, and the White Rabbit following. The parade ended with the real Mickey Mouse. The float showcased Mickey’s looks throughout the years.
This parade ran daily until September 30th, 1996.
7. Remember the Magic
As Mickey Mania was coming to an end, Disney already had big plans for the next parade. Remember the Magic started on October 1st, 1996 in honor of the 25th anniversary of Disney World and ran for exactly five years. In 1997, it was renamed Disney’s Magical Moments Parade after the anniversary had ended with a few minor changes.
Remember the Magic was the first interactive parade. Before the show, parade coaches would select guests to be featured in several show stops throughout the route.
When the parade began, the announcer said that this parade is dedicated to everyone who has visited Disney World in the last 25 years. This was a nice sentiment suggesting that Disney understands that it wouldn’t be where it is without the support of the fans and guests.
There were six floats in total. The first float was of Cinderella Castle. Cinderella and her Prince were escorted by royal dancers and joined by Sorcerer Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, and Chip and Dale. The Fairy Godmother followed behind. Next came the Little Mermaid Float escorted by fish holding maracas. Ariel, Flounder, an audio-animatronic sea band, and a Sebastian figure adorned this float. Chefs pushing carts then announced Beauty and the Beast. Spinning dishes gave way to an audio-animatronic Lumiere who occasionally talked when the parade was not in show mode. A stairway led to Belle and Beast. Dancing guards rolled a treasure cart from which the Genie would pop out in show mode then came the Aladdin float on which a giant inflatable Genie towered over Aladdin and Jasmine. Jafar and the Magic Carpet walked alongside. The Lion King float followed appropriately with jungle animals, audio-animatronic Simba, Zazu, Pumbaa, and Timon, and a costumed Rafiki on the back of the float. African stilt walkers followed behind. The last float was a beautiful garden scene with a water fountain and the classic characters like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Alice, The White Rabbit, King Louie, Baloo, Mary Poppins, Pocahontas, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Pinocchio, and Gepetto.
This parade was a lot of fun because it featured characters from relevant movies plus enough classics to remain true to Disney’s past.
8. Share a Dream Come True Parade
As soon as the Remember the Magic parade ended, Share a Dream Come True began. On October 1, 2001, Share a Dream Come True opened to celebrate 100 years of magic and the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney’s birth.
Most of the floats in this parade featured snow globes with the most important characters in Walt’s career. Each globe was 8.5 feet in diameter with glitter and moving parts.
The parade began with a miniature float topped with an animator who sketched Mickey House at his desk. This was to honor Walt’s first character.
The first float was called It All Started with a Mouse on which there were 11 sculpted figures of Mickey Mouse throughout the years including his appearances in Steamboat Willie, The Brave Little Tailor, Plane Crazy, Mickey and the Beanstalk, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and Sorcerer Mickey. Minnie Mouse and Goofy accompanied the figures.
The next float was Wish Upon a Star honoring the early years of Walt Disney. Pinocchio appeared in the snow globe on this float while Gepetto, The Blue Fairy, Figaro, Cleo, Jiminy Cricket, Snow White and some of her dwarf friends surrounded him. The A Thousand Dreams to See float showcased Disney’s adventures in flight. Aladdin and his magic carpet were prominently featured in the globe while Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Mary Poppins and her umbrella rode along. The Disney Villains including Jafar, Maleficent, Cruella DeVil, and Ursula were on the Face the Darkest Fears float. The Evil Queen from Snow White took front and center while an 18-foot inflatable Chernabog from the Night on Bald Mountain scene in Fantasia hovered overhead. Things soon lighted up with the A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes float. This one had three globes each with a different prince and princess: Cinderella and Prince Charming, Belle and Beast, and Ariel and Prince Eric. The Fairy Godmother, Flounder, and Sebastian also rode on this float. As Long as there is Imagination Left in the World followed behind. It was designed to look like the Crystal Castle in the Crystal Arts shop on Main Street, and it had a two-tiered snow globe with ½ inch thick molded acrylic and crystal turrets and towers. There were a lot of characters with this float: Cheshire cat, Young Simba, Zazu, Timon, Thumper and Flounder plus Baloo, Br’er Bear, Br’er Fox, Esmeralda, and Chip and Dale who walked beside.
Other characters in the parade included Alice, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Pocahontas, Meeko, and Foulfellow, Gideon, and the Donkey Boys. In all, there were 110 Cast Members- the most in any Disney World parade so far. The parade was also the first to start in Frontierland and go to Main Street USA instead of the other way around.
In its 14 year run, it was renamed twice; in 2006, it became Disney Dreams Come True, and in 2009, Celebrate a Dream Come True. Each one had a few changes to the floats like the snow globes being removed and some new characters being added. Most people say that the last rendition of the parade was a bit bland with lots of generic dancers instead of characters on the street. However, it did incorporate some new music, show stops, and the new What Will You Celebrate theme. The generic nature allowed it to be generalizable to more guests.
9. Festival of Fantasy Parade
When the Festival of Fantasy Parade opened on March 9th, 2014, it was a big to do. The parade featured an original score and new and quite impressive floats. Crowds flocked to see the show, and viewing spots filled up almost an hour before it even started. This parade winds from Frontierland near Splash Mountain all the way to Main Street USA where it rounds Town Square and exits at the gate near the fire station. Because the route is so long, many people find that it’s best to watch from Frontierland or the Hub since the performers are pretty worn out by the end of the line.
One of the main draws of this parade is that it showcases stores from the New Fantasyland, which opened around the same time. The Princess Garden Float is up first, at an impressive 50 feet long, carrying Disney royalty like Cinderella, Tiana, Belle, and their princes. It’s covered in beautiful topiaries, woodland creatures and birds, and a swan court. Anna and Elsa follow.
Tangled from the 2010 film of the same name is up next. Flynn Rider and Rapunzel ride a long ship braving the high seas. Rapunzel’s hair weaves around the float, which is 36 feet long. The pair rides the swaying pendulums down the route.
Little Mermaid, a 1989 classic, follows with Ariel and friends. She sits on top of a colorful seashell music box along with fish dancing to conga music. This float is fun and whimsical with bubbles and shimmery fabrics on the Lion Fish, Coral Fish, Seashell, and the Sea Horse Performers that accompany it.
The Peter Float is next, inspired by the 1953 film. Its theme is Neverland, and Peter and Wendy Darling ride aboard the famous Jolly Roger Pirate Ship. There are smoke effects and even a rainbow over Skull Rock. Tinkerbelle hides amid the giant flowers, and Captain Hook takes center stage on a swinging anchor. The Lost Boys dance along with high-energy choreography, and the Tick Tock Crocodile finds his way in as well.
Brave was a hit in 2012, and it’s the only Pixar film to make it into the parade. Celtic Couples and Scottish Dancers dance along to Bagpipes as Merida rides high on her majestic crown.
The Sleeping Beauty float honors the 1959 film created by Walt Disney, and it’s quite exciting! Prince Phillip, Sleeping Beauty’s prince, battles a steampunk dragon as Maleficent who spews fire. She is 53 feet long and 26 feet tall, and it’s the first and only float in Disney’s fleet that bends and flexes. She’s joined by stilt performers and dramatic raven dancers. The Three Good Fairies, who saved Sleeping Beauty at birth, follow behind just to make sure nothing happens to their beloved beauty.
The parade finale features a 90-foot long magical caravan of characters: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, Pluto, Pegasus horses, ostriches, hippos, elephants, alligators all from Fantasia, and the Sassy Bubble Girls with cotton-candy hair from the Storybook Circus. It all ends with Mickey’s Airship, which is a giant hot air balloon.
The Festival of Fantasy is still shown daily in Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
Do you watch the 3:00 parade in the Magic Kingdom?